Nicholas Roche set to extend Grand Tour record in the Giro d’Italia
Team DSM rider to start 24th Grand Tour of his career next month
Ireland’s Nicholas Roche will start his 24th Grand Tour race in next month’s Giro d’Italia. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images
Surpassing his podium record was always an impossibly tall order but Nicholas Roche continues to ride further away from his father Stephen in terms of Grand Tour appearances after he was named to start the 24th of his career at next month’s Giro d’Italia, more than any other in Irish cycling history.
Roche, who turns 37 in July, has been named in the eight-rider Team DSM team (formerly Team Sunweb) ahead of the race start in Turin on May 8th: it will be his fifth Giro start in all, the first being in 2007, to go with his now 10 starts in the Tour de France plus nine more Vuelta a España, his pending tally of 24 Grand Tour starts also ahead of Seán Kelly, who made 21 Grand Tour starts in all, including 14 in the Tour de France.
In last year’s postponed Tour de France, Roche equalled his father’s 10 starts, Roche senior also being the last Irish rider to win both the Tour de France and the Giro in 1987.
Dan Martin has also been confirmed as team leader with Israel Start-Up Nation ahead of his first Giro start in seven years. Martin’s last Giro was when the race started in Belfast, and ended when he crashed on the opening team time-trial, breaking a collarbone in the process. It will also see him seek a hat-trick of Grand Tour stage wins, having won a stage in last year’s Vuelta a España, where he finished fourth overall, to go with two previous stage wins in the Tour de France.
The 2021 Giro is a standout mountainous course, including treacherous gravel roads featured in Strade Bianche, plus the infamous Monte Zoncolan, this year’s race, set to finish in Milan on May 21st, featuring six mountain finishes and seven other hilly stages likely to suit Martin.
Roche first joined the German-based Team DSM in the off-season in 2018, originally on a one-year deal, then got an extended deal after an excellent 2019 season. He’s part of a strong selection for the Giro, which also includes last year’s runner-up and mountain stage winner Jai Hindley from Australia, plus new French signing and GC contender Romain Bardet. Roche’s best placing in the Giro was 24th overall in 2016.
Martin’s fourth place in the 2020 Vuelta, having sat in third overall for the first two weeks, was the best Irish Grand Tour placing since Kelly won it outright in 1988. The now 34 year-old Martin placed 57th overall on his Giro debut in 2010,
For now Sam Bennett is the only Irish rider certain to start the Tour de France, which begins in Brest on June 26th, although Martin is likely to join him. There is an interesting subplot developing around Bennett’s new team-mate at Deceuninck-QuickStep, Mark Cavendish, who on Wednesday afternoon made it three wins in-a-row at the Tour of Turkey, sprinting to victory on stage 4 into Kemer, that finish marred by a bad crash which took out several riders either side of the barriers.
The 35-year-old Manxman, who hadn’t won a race of any sort since 2018, is clearly back to his old form, although Cavendish hasn’t been talked about as a possible Tour starter, as Bennett looks to defend the green jersey won in 2020 on the back of two stage wins.